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Modern community centre puts morans in touch with the world

Kenyans must embrace ICT for the sake of development. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO
Kenyans must embrace ICT for the sake of development. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO 

For 26-year-old herdsman John Kiu, a community centre has opened up a new world beyond the borders of the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

Situated in the centre of the rolling plains that characterise the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve, the Sekanani Community Knowledge Centre is putting morans in touch with the world by providing access to the internet.

“I thought this technology was just meant for the tourists and a few privileged Africans from outside. Sekanani has given me the opportunity to learn the foreign machine (computer),” said Mr Kiu.

He now has a number of friends who he communicates with closely and hopes that better things are in the offing.

He was among the 20 youth from Sekanani village who last week graduated with certificates in computer and entrepreneurial studies in a ceremony that also saw the official opening of the centre.

“I feel really great to be able to us a computer. Now alongside with giving out my number, I also give out my email for further communication and I can interact with tourists I meet here though emails and social networks like Facebook,” said Mr Kiu.

The 2009 Population and Housing Census results indicated that 311,543 households in the country own computers, representing 3.6 per cent of Kenyan households.

Almost a half of the computers were in Nairobi, while accessibility diminished with the move into rural areas.

According to the parliamentary Committee on Energy and Information Communication Technology chairman James Rege, there is an urgent need for the government to adopt ICT and make it accessible to local communities as a way of spurring development.

He said the world is currently in the information technology era, which is the future, hence the need for Kenyans to embrace ICT for the sake of development.

“The country must appreciate that this is the era for ICT and it can fail to embrace it at its own peril,” said Mr Rege after officially opening Sekenani centre recently.

Computer use

The project was made possible courtesy of AfriAfya and Cisco Africa.

According to AfriAfya director Koki Muli-Kinagwi, the continental NGO has several sites which are equipped with ICT equipment, staffed with local people trained in computer use, and a two way communication system.

Dr Muli-Kinagwi said the organisation had in the last seven years implemented programmes that sought to leverage the potential of ICT to increase access to community health information in rural Kenyan communities.

She said that through the centre, AfriAfya planned to reach out to the community and pass on a wide variety of relevant health and other development information.

Dr Koki said that apart from increasing the proportion of youth and children in schools with knowledge and skills on use of ICT, they also intended to increase knowledge on and the practice of disease prevention and control among community members.

The NGO has 33 such resource centres spread all over Kenya. Sekenani centre has 15 computers which are run by six solar panels and four batteries that were provided by Cisco in a project that cost over Sh3 million.

The Cisco Networking Academy for North and East Africa manager Hital Muraj said the firm took pride in assisting local communities and would continue supporting access to ICT as a way of empowering people.

ICT centres

Ms Muraj said the company had launched a community social responsibility programme worth Sh10million to support existing ICT centres and start other new projects.

“We have been involved in community computer centres in Karachuonyo, Sega, Sekenani, Narok, Tseikuru in Mwingi, Kisii, and Shimba hills in Taita Taveta,” said Ms Muraj.

Such community projects have impacted positively on communities with many youths acquiring computer knowledge.

In Siaya, for instance, a similar project dubbed Sega Silicon Valley (SSV) that was started four years ago plans to start outsourcing jobs from the United States through Sama Source, a US company.

According SSV founder James Ofwona, the intention of founding the centre was to enable the youth to access computer knowledge which is vital for the prosperity of the society and nation.

“In the near future, we will have young men and women doing jobs with US companies from here. We will have reduced joblessness albeit in a small way,” said Mr Ofwona in a previous interview.

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